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An Iwama Aikido deshis best friend or How to survive summer

In the book Go rin no sho Miyamoto Musashi states, in his very no-nonsense-pragmatic way, that a warrior should never have his favourite weapon or get to accustomed to use one specific weapon. The simple reason being that in the heat of the moment, on the battle field, it is not unlikely to loose it and if you get paralyzed when riddened of your favourite weapon, you are of no use to anyone and will most likely get killed. According to legend, Musashi himself took this to extreme lengths, by hand carving weapons out of whatever was at hand, for example a boats oar, while en route to battle.
Allthough not as extreme as Musashi in any way, I have since loong taken the habit of not always using the same weapon. I shift between the ones that are at hand in order to not get too accustomed to any particular weapons specific weight, shape, balance or feel. This is a very simple and good everyday practice. Whenever I visit a dojo or go to a seminar, I try not to bring my own weapons but to borrough what is at hand. If possible. However, in the process of doing that, one has to admit that there are weapons and there are weapons. And they range in quality from master handcraft to simply a piece of wood.
The bokken in the picture I bought from the legendary man on mount Tsukuba in early summer of 2007 and it falls, without a doubt, within the master handcraft category. The old man brought out some weapons. But when it was clear I was not just going to pick one out, pay and leave, he brought out some more. And then some more.  And then probably all of them I think. And he left me to it. His wife smiled and served me tea. I probably spent some two hours going through four big cases of weapons. And when I was done, I started over. After what felt like the better part of the afternoon I finally decided on four weapons, two ken and two jo. The old man looked them over carefully and nodded in appreciation. He asked my name and I told him what name and what kanji I wanted him to use. He nodded again, and carved ”matsu” on all four of them. These weapons have stayed with me since then and have seen many hours of keiko in many different places. They are the best of the best and it would undoubtedly be easy for them to be regarded as favourite weapons. The ken in the picture holding a special place.
This week in Takemusu Aikido Göteborg, we will train our last scheduled class for this semester. Then awaits summer, holidays and time off and, as is the case in many clubs, a brief pause in dojo practice. From many years of training experience I know that this also means that a lot of people that otherwise practice regularly will do close to nothing in terms of training, coming back to the dojo a month or two later stiff, slow, unbalanced and greatly out of shape. My simple advice is always this: favourite weapon or not, bring a bokken. The bokken is the Iwama Aikido deshis best friend. You can bring it wherever you go, it takes no space and it doesn’t require any other training partner or excessive amounts of time of training to be effective. If you have a ken and you use it properly, you could spend twenty years on a desert island and still come back to civilization in great aikido shape. It helps you master foot-work, it improves movement, it stabilizes your hips, brings mobility to both hips and shoulders, it builds strength, trains you in staying centered and provides focus. Not bad for a piece of wood! So bring your best friend and survive summer. I will.
I wish all my Aiki friends a very good summer. Hope to see you in keiko during autumn. Gambatte!
/In Aiki – M

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